As the top-producing source of NHL players, it’s no surprise that the OHL’s vein of talent is a rich and abundant one. And with a wealth of drafted wingers still plying their trade in the junior league, it’s not surprising to find some quality nuggets — even in the honorable mentions.
With that in mind, below is a ranking of the top 10 NHL-drafted wingers competing in the OHL.
1. Max Domi, London Knights
Drafted: Phoenix Coyotes, 1st round, 12th overall, 2013
It’s been a banner year for Max Domi, even if a fourth consecutive run to the Memorial Cup was not in the cards.
Domi played a key role not only with the London Knights, but also rapidly became a hometown favorite in Toronto during Team Canada’s gold medal-winning World Junior performance.
The 5’10” forward finished the season with 32 goals and 102 points in 57 games. Though still prone to trying to do too much himself, Domi learned to better use his teammates — especially when paired with prospective top draft pick Mitch Marner and fellow Coyotes prospect, Christian Dvorak.
He assumed a leadership role this year, earning the captain’s “C,” and carried his team following the trade of Michael McCarron to Oshawa. Domi plays bigger than his size and, when he fully learns to merge his individual skill within the team framework, he could continue his dominance at the professional level.
2. Michael McCarron, Oshawa Generals
Drafted: Montreal Canadiens, 1st round, 25th overall, 2013
Speaking of McCarron, the 6’6” first-rounder turned a corner in his sophomore season in the OHL. Much to the expected delight of the Montreal Canadiens, who have long been searching for a prototypical power forward, McCarron learned to use his size more effectively and learned to drive hard to the net.
The results are clear. In 25 games with the Knights, he scored 22 goals and 19 assists, while racking up 58 penalty minutes. Following a trade to the Oshawa Generals, McCarron’s scoring pace lessened, but his importance to the Generals’ drive to the top of the standings was immeasurable.
McCarron, listed as a winger, also saw significant time down the middle, helping to diversify his game and allowing him to get experience in a variety of roles.
3. Michael Dal Colle, Oshawa Generals
Drafted: New York Islanders, 1st round, 5th overall, 2014
Michael Dal Colle broke through as an offensive force with the Generals last year, scoring 95 points in 67 games. This year, he almost matched those totals in 11 fewer games, improving his goal-scoring (42), and nearly tying his total points (93).
He has worked on his defensive play, finishing the year at a +32. Dal Colle continues to show the combination of size and skill that made him a high first round pick. He’s continued to display his dynamic hands and nose for the net.
4. Zach Nastasiuk, Owen Sound Attack
Drafted: Detroit Red Wings, 2nd round, 48th overall, 2013
You know what you’re going to get with Zach Nastasiuk, and the 2014-15 season was no different. You’re going to get solid, two-way production, leadership, and grit. And it’s no surprise that Nastasiuk was the team’s nominee for the OHL’s Most Outstanding Player trophy.
In 64 games this season, Nastasiuk finished with 35 goals and 77 points. He has already made the jump to the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL with Owen Sound’s ouster from the OHL playoffs.
5. Nick Ritchie, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Drafted: Anaheim Ducks, 1st round, 10th overall, 2014
Nick Ritchie has the size. At the 2015 World Junior Championship, he showed he had versatility. And now, as his Greyhounds compete in the OHL Western Conference final against the Connor McDavid-led Erie Otters, he’s trying to show that he’s the X-factor that can push the Greyhounds into the OHL final.
At 6’3 and 230 pounds, Ritchie has prototypical NHL size, which he put to good use this season. But what’s most attractive is Ritchie’s ability to combine that size with quality hands and a nose for the net.
Last season,he finished with 39 goals. This season, his totals were down (he only played in 48 games between Peterborough and the Soo), but he still ended with 29 goals and 62 points. His playoff performance has been out of this world — 13 goals and 12 assists in 12 games so far.
Ritchie brings championship experience to the Greyhounds and has the size to impose his will on the opposition. He’s been using both in spades so far this year.
6. Kevin Labanc, Barrie Colts
Drafted: San Jose Sharks, 6th round, 171st overall, 2014
Kevin Labanc’s performance didn’t just go to the next level this year; it leapt to the next stratosphere. After finishing with 35 points last season, Labanc cracked the 100-point plateau this year — making the Sharks’ sixth-round selection look more and more like an incredible value pick.
Labanc has improved across the board — shooting, skating, awareness. And while some still have concerns about his size – he is listed at 5’10” — Labanc made sure there would be no questions about his ability or his consistency. In fact, his season included a 25-game point-scoring streak.
7. Nick Baptiste, Erie Otters
Drafted: Buffalo Sabres, 3rd round, 69th overall, 2013
You could forgive yourself for checking the OHL injury report each day to see whether Nick Baptiste was on it for “upper body injury – caused by pinching.” After a trade from the bottom-dwelling Sudbury Wolves to the penthouse-residing Erie Otters, Baptiste’s dream season continues with a berth in the OHL Western finals.
In 12 games with the Wolves this season, he was nearing a point-per-game pace with 11 points. Since being acquired by the Otters, he’s been performing at more than a point-per-game rate, which has extended into the playoffs.
In 41 games this season with the Otters, Baptiste scored 26 goals and 27 assists. In the playoffs, he’s added 17 points in 13 games so far, including a 4-goal game in his last outing.
But what’s of greatest value to the Otters is Baptiste’s ability to provide secondary scoring and a physical element. Though not overly large (190 pounds on a 6’1” frame), Baptiste is adept at getting in the way of the opposition’s goalie and plays a solid game down low.
8. Tyler Bertuzzi, Guelph Storm
Drafted: Detroit Red Wings, 2nd round, 58th overall, 2013
With so many graduating players from last year’s OHL champion Guelph Storm, Tyler Bertuzzi knew he needed to step up and assume a leadership mantle with the squad. He did — in spades.
In 68 games with the Storm this season, Bertuzzi scored 43 goals and nearly cracked the 100-point plateau with 98. He also added 91 penalty minutes, showing his willingness to get his nose dirty.
The most promising aspect of Bertuzzi’s season was was his ability to play a full slate of games. Injuries — predominantly head injuries — restricted him to 43 and 29 games the past two seasons, respectively. A healthy and dominant season bodes well for Bertuzzi’s long-term prospects.
Bertuzzi has already made an impact at the next level. Following Guelph’s ouster from the OHL playoffs, he joined the Grand Rapids Griffins where, in his first AHL game, Bertuzzi scored his first AHL goal.
9. Tobias Lindberg, Oshawa Generals
Drafted: Ottawa Senators, 4th round, 102nd overall, 2013
It’s safe to say that Tobias Lindberg’s decision to come to North America to speed the transition of his game was an unbridled success. Joining the Oshawa Generals this season, Lindberg quickly assumed a key role in that team’s fortunes.
In his first OHL season, Lindberg scored 32 goals and added 78 assists. In 14 playoff games, he’s kept up a nearly point-per-game pace with six goals and six assists.
Most importantly, the 6’3”, 215-pound winger has worked his way up the line-up, moving from his introductory bottom-six role to force his way into the team’s offensive elite.
10. Brendan Lemieux, Barrie Colts
Drafted: Buffalo Sabres, 2nd round, 31st overall, 2014
It’s been an eventful season for the second-generation agitator. After being drafted with the 31st overall selection in the 2014 NHL Draft, Brendan Lemieux was a key prospect included in the Evander Kane/Tyler Myers trade earlier this season.
Through it all, Lemieux showed the combination of scoring and grit that makes him a strong prospect for the future. In 57 games, Lemieux scored 41 goals and 19 assists. He also racked up 145 penalty minutes — the same total as last year.
Lemieux has solid size and a willingness to get dirty — a different dirty than his father, Claude, was known for.
Ryan MacInnis, Kitchener Rangers (Arizona Coyotes, 2nd round, 43rd overall, 2014)
Dylan Sadowy, Saginaw Spirit (San Jose Sharks, 3rd round, 81st overall, 2013)
Michael Bunting, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (Arizona Coyotes, 4th round, 117th overall, 2014)
Mike Amadio, North Bay Battalion (Los Angeles Kings, 3rd round, 90th overall, 2014)
Justin Bailey, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (Buffalo Sabres, 2nd round, 52nd overall, 2013)
Nick Paul, North Bay Battalion (Dallas Stars, 4th round, 101st overall, 2013)
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